Pacers knock out Knicks in Game 7, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton reacts during the first half of Game 7 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the New York Knicks, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in New York. (Julia Nikhinson/AP Photo)

NEW YORK — Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points and the Indiana Pacers rode one of the most sensational first halves in Game 7 history to a 130-109 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 10 years.

The Pacers made 29 of their 38 shots in the first half, a shooting percentage of 76.3 per cent that was the highest in the post-season since 1997 when the NBA began keeping detailed play-by-play for all four quarters. They led 70-55 at that point and pulled away every time the Knicks tried to make a run in the second half.

The No. 6-seeded Pacers set an NBA playoff record by finishing at 67.1 per cent for the game and advanced to face top-seeded Boston in a series that begins Tuesday. Indiana last reached the conference finals in 2014, losing to Miami.

Jalen Brunson left in the second half with a broken left hand, one final injury for a Knicks team that was decimated by them.

They got OG Anunoby back Sunday after he missed the previous four games with a strained left hamstring, but he clearly wasn’t moving well and was taken out of the game after just five minutes.

Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard each scored 20 points and Aaron Nesmith was 8-for-8 en route to his 19 for the Pacers.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine 3-pointers and scored 39 points for the Knicks, who were trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000 but couldn’t overcome the losses of Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, before losing Anunoby and finally Brunson.

Brunson finished with 17 points and nine assists, shooting 6-for-17 after scoring 40 or more points five times in this post-season. Alec Burks came off the bench for 26 points.

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The third Game 7 between the franchises — the Knicks won in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals and the Pacers pulled out a 97-95 victory the next year in the East semifinals — was a chance for the Pacers to show off the offence that led the NBA with 123.3 points per game.

They scored 39 points in the first quarter, the most in a Game 7 in the play-by-play era, looking every bit like the team that set an NBA record this season by reaching 140 11 times.

The Pacers made 10 of their first 11 shots — it would have been 11 of 12, but Myles Turner’s dunk attempt bounced back out of the basket — and didn’t slow down much the rest of the half. Knicks fans who were screaming and chanting before the game were groaning during it as the Pacers made shot after shot, no matter how well the Knicks had defended them.

The Pacers led 39-27 after shooting 16 for 21 from the field (76.2 per cent) and 7 for 9 from 3-point range (77.8 per cent) in the first quarter. Indiana then went 13 for 17 (76.5 per cent) in the second quarter, with the lead growing to 22 points.

The Knicks cut it to 70-55 at halftime, then scored the first seven out of the break as part of a 12-3 start to the second half that trimmed it to 73-67. But with the Pacers leading by seven, the Knicks committed three straight turnovers that helped Indiana push the lead to 84-70.

Josh Hart played through an abdominal strain for the Knicks, fouling out with 10 points and eight rebounds.

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